Even when I think back to the Conference days I struggle to recall an occassion when a team has arrived in Doncaster as Tranmere did today so determined to play for a draw that you half expect them to run the ball into the corner during the warm up; still on the bright side I suppose thinking back most of the teams who did it at Belle Vue in the Conference somehow used to end up inadvertantly winning. Small mercies.
I suppose it was understandable given Tranmere’s injury problems and suspensions that their main objective would be to not lose rather than to win, but with negative play came a negative mood to the Keepmoat Stadium as the visitors took every chance to run the clock down from the moment it started running. Still, for all the ill will and lament bore at the other Rovers, you can’t deny it proved successful for Ronnie Moore.
With Doncaster unable to gather any attacking momentum and Tranmere seemingly not wanting to the game was the antithesis of a classic. In the game’s opening half an hour there were just two shots, both from the boot of Lewis Guy, his first travelling just a couple of feet before being blocked by a defending limb, the second pulled just wide. After that the ‘keepers remained redundant as teh rest of the ahlfwas spent watching Tranmere players find increasingly slower ways to retrieve the ball for set-pieces.
Two minutes into the second half, totally against the character of the game, something interesting happened, and the Keepmoat Stadium awoke in time to see Chris Tremarco receive a red card for a hefty sliding challenge on Richie Wellens. It took Rovers ten minutes to find a way to make their man advantage count,as Guy just failed to turn a James O’Connor cross goalwards. Just after the hour Tranmere almost took a lead that you feel would have been more of a shock to themselves than the home crowd as Paul McClaren’s free-kick came back off the post.
From that point on it was all the home side but for all their posession and pressure the red and white Rovers best chance did not arrive until stoppage time as Brian Stock’s long range effort was redirected by the head of a diving James Hayter only for Danny Coyne to stick out a trailing leg and secure a point for his side. As the final whistle sounded so did a chorus of boos from the home fans; yes in terms of entertainment this match was up their with that grainey green tinged late night Big Brother footage of an empty house, but you can’t win every game and in years gone by this is the sort of fixture we could have and would have lost.
Man of the Match: Neil Sullivan, it took some work to stay awake out there and credit top the man and his experience for doing so.
Wilson Watch: Steady is probably the best word tio describe Mark Wilson today; he didn’t do anything wrong, but then didn’t really impose himself on the game either before being replaced by Martin Wods for the final fifteen minutes in a tactical switch.
Doncaster Rovers line-up (4-3-2-1): Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Matt Mills, Adam Lockwood, Sean McDaid; Brian Stock, Mark Wilson (Martin Woods), Richie Wellens; Lewis Guy (James Coppinger), James Hayter; Paul Heffernan (Mark McCammon)
subs not used: Paul Green, Gordon Greer
Tranmere Rovers line-up (4-4-2): Danny Coyne; Robbie Stockdale, Anthony Kay, Ian Goodsion, Carl Tremarco; Steve Jennings, Paul McClaren, Adman Ahmed (Paul Henry), Chris Shuker (Andrew Taylor); Gareth Taylor, Chris Greenacre (Kevin Cooper)
subs not used: Calvin Zola, John Achterberg
booked: Steve Jennings, Paul McClaren